Looking back now, the long walk back from Llangattock Lingoed to the main road and Skirrid Inn was actually not so bad.
Despite the multitude of aches and pains I don't like to talk about, it was mainly downhill which helped. I could be proud of my epic three pub achievement. And I found it quite fun to try and memorise my way along Offa's Dyke path, passing through each field from memory, trying not to 'cheat' and look at my phone!
The big question mark that remained was the bus back to Abergavenny. The landlady in Cwmyoy had been so adamant that this 18:57 last bus of the day didn't exist, it made me nervous. Google Maps and Bustimes.org listed it. Why would they lie? I was reassured by a bus timetable stuck to the stop, indicating a bus time of 19:07. Different time, but it suggested a late bus existed.
Time to try and relax and get myself a pint in this 'Most Haunted' pre/post-emptive ......
I'd never have believed what an epic experience Skirrid Inn, Llanvihangel Crucorney would become when I first entered. First impressions were ones of disappointment. A dining led pub, obviously ancient, but with so many families and kids with their faces in the trough, any hopes of picking up an 'atmosphere' or getting a glimpse of the ghostly Judge Jim Jeffries (loved him at Falkirk) seemed unlikely. In fact, it reminded me of the Jamaica Inn at Bolventor, though less sprawling, less like a museum. London Pride is the exciting guest ale I hadn't witnessed so far, so I order a pint of that and then do my best 'Columbo' to the barmaid ..... "Oh, and one more thing, does a bus run from here around 7pm?" Her reply isn't exactly satisfactory. "Buses, from here? Cooo, I never notice them, wouldn't have a clue sorry!" Useless. I sit in the smaller right hand room with less food and more locals. Problem is they a foul mouthed overly physical bunch of hyped up weirdos who make my skin crawl. I suspect cocaine may have been snorted off a haunted sink. The eldest one in suit and pink tie comes over to clear empty glasses off my table. "I don't work here, and I find myself doing this!" he grumbles, but no one asked him. A certificate on the wall beside me indicates that the South Gloucestershire Paranormal Society have 'successfully investigated the pub' .... but does that mean they found ghosts or not? My experience becomes more surreal when a sweaty cyclist man comes in and puts a tupperware box on the bench opposite. He sees me peering at it. "Mushrooms, freshly foraged today" he proudly explains, taking the lid off for me to have a look! I return to the bar for a half, but not liking the atmosphere, I take it through the back, past the ghostly figure on the stairs and the 'hanging beam' and sit in the garden. This is pleasant for about ten minutes, until my bladder fills up and an evening chill descends. Right, bus time, cross your fingers, and yer legs ......
Made it into the GBG? No, and I'm not too surprised, though the Pride drank well, and knowing Cwmyoy wasn't gonna make the cut this year, I thought it had an outside chance.
At the bus stop, I wait. And I wait a bit more. 18:57 and 19:07 come and go, darkness descends. Eventually, a local couple park their car in the bus stop and start unloading a load of stuff from the boot. "Does this mean there's no late bus service?" I ask them, but like the barmaid, they seem bewildered by the concept of a bus (even though they run two hourly through here during the day). Bustimes.org has a live tracker, but no buses on this route. Time to give up the ghost, so to speak.
Back in the pub, time for another drink and try and get a taxi, or spend the night here? That'd be interesting.
Before I've even got to the bar, one of the white shirted cocaine lads from earlier asks if I'm okay, where I've been, what my predicament is. Phew! Seems quite nice really, for a total chancer. "My mate does unofficial taxi'ing, he'll get you back to Abergavenny no problem, I'll ring him now matey!" he tells me before I can speak. Well he's on the phone, and he tells his mate he's met this desperate guy (i.e. me) who is willing to pay ANYTHING (errrm, no) and then breaks off to tell me £23 and I'm standing there open mouthed working out just how ripped off I'm being, when a couple within earshot look up from their surf n turf, horrified, and tell me they'll take me back for free if I give them half an hour to finish their meal. Result!
I tell our shirted wide-boy thanks but no thanks, he says no worries mush, and starts quizzing me on BRAPA (and the highly pre-emptive Llanthony Priory bar where he works, which I mentioned in Part One) so I tell him that whilst I'm at the bar buying myself an HPA, I'll get him a drink too. Of course he wants Madri. So I'm just reaching for the GBG to show him what I need to do in Gwent seeing as he seemed fascinated, but when I look up, and he's been distracted by a girl who's just arrived who he obviously fancies, and he's just follows her into the other room, the last words I hear from him are ".... and some random guy has just bought me a pint!"
Oh well. My HPA goes down well and I try not to stare too intently at our surf n turf heroes in case they leave without me!
But they keep their promise, and after a weird moment in the Gents with another white shirted crazy man who can't get his zipper to fasten so doesn't want me to hold the door open, we drive off to Abergavenny.
They reveal they are off to the Bridge Inn at Llanfoist. "Ooh that is on my list too, and next to where I'm staying!" I tell them. "But, you are doing the two in Abergavenny aren't you?" they say, terrified I might try and join them and ruin their 'together time'.
They drop me at Morrisons, and then I do a massive Tesco shop (it made sense at the time) and head to the first of my two pubs in town ......
It was perhaps my physical and mental state of exhaustion, but the Grofield, Abergavenny (2419 / 3983) passed me by to a large extent. I always feel like I'm blending in with the locals when I'm lugging a large shopping bag around a pub, especially on a busy Saturday evening. The pub was bright, very bright, too bright, that is my abiding memory. Friendly too (quite why the barman found the word 'Glamorgan' so funny, I'll never know), and it had a decent house beer which I was glad about because I was already feeling that HPA and Butty Bach's dominance was a bit overwhelming, even on day one! Welsh mascot Brekkie the Sheep (bought for me by Mummy BRAPA on her trip to Brecon) guards my shopping whilst I find the outdoor loos. A group of yoofs lurking in the courtyard tell their mate he smells of school changing rooms after over spraying the Lynx Africa. AND, I didn't realise this at the time but their is a song called Abergavenny which sadly wasn't played here but I must listen to one day.
Well, due to that epic Skirrid Inn experience, I'll leave it here for now, and tell you about four pubs in part three in two days time! Hope that makes sense.
Good night, Si